‘Tis the season of neta biopics

‘Tis the season of neta biopics

Many political biographies are hitting the screens in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. After Manmohan Singh, it’s Bal Thackeray, Narendra Modi and more.

The Accidental Prime Minister was supposed to be a revelatory movie but critics were not impressed.

Bollywood has been making a series of films based on the lives of people in the public eye. After films on freedom fighters, actors, sportspeople, and poets, it is now the turn of politicians to feature in biopics.

The Accidental Prime Minister has just hit the screens, just months before the parliamentary elections.

Here’s a look at this season’s biopics.

The Accidental Prime Minister

Released last Friday, the film is about Dr Manmohan Singh, and the screenplay is based on a book by Sanjaya Baru, his media advisor from 2004 to 2008. Singh is played by Anupam Kher, who tries to put on a wimpy avatar with a feeble voice. The BJP had endorsed the trailer on its official Twitter handle. Not many critics were impressed though. In DH Talkies, Farheen Hussain gave it two out of five stars and called it an “accidental piece of cinema.” Devaiah Bopanna, movie critic for website Arre, was scathing: ‘(Director) Vijay Gutte delivers a movie that resembles the UPA era–incoherent, helmed by corrupt people...” With a biopic of Prime Minister Modi coming up, the BJP is on the back foot, he believes. “The onus rests on Vivek Anand Oberoi to save them. And nobody puts that sort of pressure on Vivek. My instinct says that we would all be better off if Modiji himself acted in the biopic… and Vivek Oberoi ran the country.”

Vivek Oberoi is donning the role of Modi in PM Narendra Modi.

Narendra Modi

A poster featuring Vivek Oberoi as Modi was released last week. It inspired several memes.

Paresh Rawal, actor-turned-BJP MP, is also keen on playing Modi, and had announced a biopic, but was pipped to the post by Vivek. Paresh, who shot to fame with ‘Hera Pheri’, says he will go ahead with his version as well: he believes only he can do justice to the role.   

Nawazzuddin Siddiqui


Based on the life and times of Shiv Sena leader late Balasaheb Thackeray, the film-makers have put out different trailers for its Hindi and Marathi versions. Lead actor Nawazzuddin Siddiqui plays the Mumbai leader who was unapologetic about cadre violence against

the minorities and south Indians.

‘Thackeray’ is scheduled for a January 25 release. Tamil actor Siddharth slammed the movie on his Twitter handle, saying the Marathi trailer was “conveniently un-subtitled”.
He posted: “So much hate sold with such romance and heroism (music, tiger roars, applause, jingoism). No solidarity shown to millions of South Indians and immigrants who make #Mumbai great. #HappyElections!” Well-known film critic M K Raghavendra says Thackeray was behind some of the worst riots India has seen.

“He used his political might for extortion, and they’ve made him out to be a hero in every way. He is even compared to a tiger, his party’s emblem. The film is made by someone not well-known and obviously financed by political money bags, given its obviously simplistic political slant,” he told Metrolife.


The Iron Lady is still in the making.

Southern pics

The south is also gearing up for the political genre. The recently released Telugu film, NTR Kathanayakudu, stars Nandamuri Balakrishna and Vidya Balan, and tells the story of the N T Rama Rao, actor-turned-Andhra Pradesh chief minister. It hit the screens on January 9 and received good reviews. Mammootty’s biopic on former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Yatra, is set for release on February 8.

A biopic on late chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa, ‘The Iron Lady’, is also in the making; actress Nithya Menen will be playing the lead and is directed by A Priyadhaarshini.

A PR strategy? 

“It's obvious they are propaganda films. All these subjects---Manmohan Singh, Modi and Thackeray---have more than one side, but the films are simplistic and one-sided. They need to present a balanced picture, and not leave people feeling there is a political agenda behind them. They should make one see a great person's weaknesses and a villain's human side, like the film Downfall. Very few political biopics are authentic. Even Spielberg's Lincoln was not, but they should at least try to take an unbiased view. I think 'Sardar' by Ketan Mehta has been the best so far, better even than 'Gandhi' by Attenborough."

- M K Raghavendra, Film critic and author of acclaimed books on Indian cinema


“I have a problem with biopics made to terrorise people; we should mind the violence portrayed as it is unhealthy for society. Otherwise, I welcome the genre. Also, we can’t blanket the films as propaganda without watching them. The movies have to be authentic, and the details true.”

- Girish Kasaravalli, well-known Kannada film director


“I think its a PR strategy because the recently released film ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ and the film on Narendra Modi are using credible faces to pull crowd to the theatre and of course they have strong political motives. It is definitely not a coincidence that they are released near election time so it is a well thought out media strategy.”

- Aasita Bali, media studies professor, Christ University


“Very few films are being made on people who deserve it. I feel biopics are trying to justify the actions of famous people. They are trying to squeeze every medium they can. The one on Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady) is well-made and well-acted; they aren’t trying to justify her, they show the cons and everything. I also like Paan Singh Tomar. The Marathi movie on literary giant P L Deshpande is interesting; we need role models.”

- Arundhati Nag, actor